UWTSD establishes a Centre for Health and Ageing in Carmarthen


Dr Peter Herbert and David Gardner, Physiologists at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, are establishing a Centre for Health and Ageing at the University’s campus in Carmarthen. 

Participants in the pilot

The Centre will be open to any member of the public over the age of 50 or any person of any age who has a mild chronic health condition that might benefit from regular exercise. It doesn’t matter whether you exercise regularly or haven’t exercised since school, the Centre for Health and Ageing will help you improve both your health and fitness. 

The Centre, which will officially open in January, is currently looking to recruit 60 members of the public to become involved with its work.  This will enable each participant to have their very own training programmes developed specifically for them by a team of experts.

Dr Peter Herbert is a leading authority on fitness in the older generation.  His PhD looked at methods of training for older men, proving that shorter, harder training sessions followed by longer recovery periods can have positive results on their fitness levels. He also understands that a more moderate type of exercise can offer an alternative option to improve health and fitness.

As a highly experienced physiologist, Dr Herbert also has a wealth of knowledge and experience of working with sportspeople of all ages from a wide range of disciplines, including rugby, boxing and cycling.

A former Strength and Conditioning coach with the Scarlets and the Wales national rugby team, Peter, who is based at the University’s Carmarthen campus, is also an extremely successful cyclist, having won a bronze medal at the World Masters Track Cycling Championship in 2015 in the 500m sprint at 70 years of age.

“I wanted to develop my work with older people and this has led to my colleague, Dave Gardner MSc and I, establishing a Centre for Health and Ageing on the University’s campus in Carmarthen. Dave is a highly experienced sport scientist currently researching ageing, nutrition and exercise in women for his PhD,” says Dr Herbert.

“The Centre will be open to the public and we hope to develop strong community engagement by bringing together groups who have similar health and exercise needs to socialise as well as to improve their well-being.  It will also be a research hub looking at how exercise can be used to enhance health and fitness in older people,” he adds.

A key and innovative aspect of the Centre is its aim to increase student engagement with the community. This will not only enhance the scope of the Centre but also allow students to gain valuable work experience.  After gaining additional YMCA awards in Exercise Referral and Personal Training, students on the current BSc Personal Training and the new BSc Sport and Exercise Science, will work with the public, in consultation with Peter Herbert and Dave Gardner, to assess participants’ health and fitness, managing bespoke exercise programmes for them.

 “We are looking to initially recruit 60 people – male and female, to join us,” continues Peter.

“After registering your interest we will invite you in for an initial consultation to discuss your specific needs and aspirations and we’ll then conduct a preliminary health assessment. If required, and with your permission, we might need to contact your GP to discuss any health conditions that may affect your ability to exercise safely. You’ll then be assigned a student personal trainer who will devise a programme for you, again in consultation with Dave and I, and manage it on your behalf. This is likely to involve one or two sessions a week at the University and also advice on home based exercise”.

All sessions at the University must be pre-booked and will cost £5. There will be small group or individual sessions lasting 1 hour and will always have a fully qualified personal trainer supervising to offer advice. 

The Centre will also be able to offer advice on diet, nutrition and lifestyle to support your training and health needs.

Over the last eight weeks, Dr Herbert has been running a pilot scheme in preparation for the centre’s opening.  Working with six individuals aged between 60 and 78 - both fit and unfit, some with medical conditions - Peter devised bespoke personal fitness plans tailored specifically for each individual.  One of those taking part in the study is Mr Gareth Williams - a former Consultant Surgeon at Glangwili and Werndale hospitals – who describes the experience as the best thing he’s ever done.

Mr Gareth Williams

“I’ve been doing this for two months now and already I’ve seen a big difference,” says Mr Gareth Williams. 

“As you get older, your body changes but doing physical activity minimises the risk.  Peter takes all your measurements at the start, such as your height and weight and the ratio of fat and muscle. He’s got some amazing machinery in the high performance laboratory. 

“I’ve had some illness over the last few years and my two sons, who are both doctors, told me that I needed to do something to improve my health.  That’s why I’m here.

“Peter is so well respected – he’s a well-known world authority and his enthusiasm is infectious.  Peter is always improving his knowledge and learning - we’re so lucky to work with him.  He’s by your side and watches everything you do.  So, we as a little team of older people have a world class personal trainer.  It’s incredible.

“Programmes are tailored to each person – it’s personal and suitable for each individual.  He’s been given information by our GPs who have given Peter the OK to work with us – it’s slow progression exercise under direct supervision.  All the information you share with him is confidential.  You trust him.   He’s an absolute professional in the true sense of the word - he knows us and he knows our limits,” he adds

Gareth is also a keen sailor and is determined to improve his fitness levels to enable him to continue sailing for as long as possible.

“I’ve put on 2kg of muscle on in the last 8 weeks and my blood pressure has decreased significantly since starting this training programme.

“My passion is sailing but the older you get the more of an effort it is – you certainly have to have a level of fitness to be able to carry on and to be safe as you lose muscle strength as you get older.  My aims when I started working with Peter were to reverse some of the things that had happened from a fitness point of view; to have a beneficial effect on my health and to improve my muscle strength.  I’m getting older but I want to carry on sailing.

“I went across the Atlantic two years ago and raced from the Canaries across to St Lucia.  It took three weeks to complete 3000 miles.  It was something I’d wanted to do for years and I want to be able to continue to have these adventures.  I need to carry on doing that type of thing for as long as I can.”

Mr Williams certainly believes that Centre for Health and Ageing will be a great success and believes that it will make a huge difference to the lives of older people in Carmarthenshire.

“Peter has hit on something really special here.  We’re all getting on and some of us have health issues.  We come twice a week – we can’t train more than that because we’re older and our muscle fibres won’t heal as quickly.  Our one hour sessions first thing in the morning have become a social event.  We all know each other and we enjoy each other’s company.

“To have what Peter’s doing here in Carmarthen is fantastic.  We have a lot of fun.  We’re very lucky.  This is the best thing I’ve ever done – honestly.”

Dr Herbert added: “Having researched fitness in older people and having seen the results of the work we’ve done with the pilot group over the last two months, I feel we can offer a service that will greatly benefit the older population in Carmarthenshire. 

“Along with the help of a select number of students studying on the University’s Sport and Health degrees, we will be able to offer clients a tailored training programme that will suit the age and needs of each individual.  We hope that people across Carmarthenshire will use the facility and I look forward to working with a range of people of all fitness levels and abilities.”

For further information and to register your interest, please contact Dr Peter Herbert p.herbert@uwtsd.ac.uk or Dave Gardner d.gardner@uwtsd.ac.uk from the School of Sport, Health and Outdoor Education at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.  You can also contact them on 01267 225187.

Further Information

  1. For further information, please contact Sian-Elin Davies by emailing sian-elin.davies@uwtsd.ac.uk / 01267 676908 / 07449 998476